The NCAA, an entity often criticized for being too harsh, too lenient, too overbearing or not overbearing enough finally showed there’s one thing they shouldn’t always be considered—completely heartless.
DeAnthony Arnett just wanted to play football. After leaving Michigan, he wanted to do it closer to his home city of Saginaw so his father, ailing and on dialysis, could see him play the game he loves without having to travel far. William Arnett just wanted the chance to see his son streaking across the green grass, watching him live the dream up close and personal.
So Arnett made the decision to depart Tennessee where he originally committed and return home to his family, who needed him as much as he needed them. He decided that the ideal place to return to football and school would be his first love, Michigan State University. Walking out on an original commitment wasn’t easy for Arnett, but it was simply something which circumstance dictated had to happen.
The first problem? Derek Dooley didn’t think it was that easy. A head coach, fighting for his life in the rough and tumble SEC, wasn’t going to let one of his better young wide receivers go without a fight. There were rumors that Dooley wouldn’t permit Arnett’s scholarship release from Tennessee no matter what the situation. Outcry began, and Dooley relented. Arnett was finally free to become a Spartan, something he had dreamt about for a long time. One lifelong dream would be coming true.
The other would temporarily remain on hold. As per NCAA regulations, transferring student athletes must sit out for a year unless special circumstance permits. The possibility? No Saturday’s spent on the field in 2012. Unfazed, Arnett applied for a hardship waiver which would allow him to play immediately. Most would quickly agree that Arnett’s circumstance was special, but that’s not how bureaucracy operates. It took far too long for the NCAA to concur, but on Thursday, they finally did. Justice was done. Arnett was granted his hardship waiver, and will be allowed to suit up for Michigan State this fall.
Make no mistake, this ruling also helps the Spartans, who will be breaking in a young wide receiving core next year and need Arnett’s natural playmaking abilities. It was never only about that, though. It’s mostly about a young man refusing to let red tape dictate what he can and cannot do. Never once in the process did we hear Arnett publicly complain, cry or whine about his predicament. Plenty of fans, writers and pundits did, but that’s their job. Though he and his family were likely agonizing silently, Arnett simply kept going, kept pushing and got what he needed after believing when all the chips were down.
That’s the true measure of a man. Can you smile when the world wants you to frown? Can you believe in a dream that may seem impossible? Will you never lose faith? After pressing through this elongated saga, Arnett can answer “yes” to all of those questions. That makes him more than just a good football player; it makes him a special human being worthy of credit.
When it comes to this matter, we’ll let Mr. Arnett have the final say. On May 9, the day before his fate was announced, he tweeted: “If you need somebody to motivate you to accomplish your goals, then you losing. Can’t nobody do it for you.”
So this fall, when you see “Arnett” on the back of a green and white jersey, remember all the powerful things that name stands for. Lessons such as never giving up on your dreams, even if your fate is in someone else’s hands, or the undying love that exists between father and son and the importance of family.
These are messages everyone can use refreshers on, courtesy of a kid and his aversion to the word “no.”